Asthma patients may not need daily steroids

Asthma patients may not need daily doses of inhaled steroids according to a study, a finding that could alter treatment for millions suffering from the respiratory ailment.

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston found that people who use corticosteroids every day to control mild asthma do no better than those who use them only when they have symptoms.

"The discovery that these two courses of treatment do not differ significantly could eventually change the way doctors and patients manage asthma, providing an option that is easier to follow and possibly less expensive," said lead author William Calhoun in a statement.

How the study was done

Calhoun and his team drew their conclusions after monitoring more than 340 adults with mild to moderate persistent asthma in an attempt to assess different strategies for long-term asthma care.

Making note of bronchial reactivity, lung function, days missed from school or work and the exacerbation of symptoms and attacks over a period of nine months, they found "no measurable difference" among asthma treatment methods, according to the statement.

"We hope our findings prompt patients to talk with their doctors and become more active participants in effectively managing their condition," Calhoun said.

Currently, asthma patients are generally prescribed a twice-daily dose of an inhaled corticosteroid, such as beclomethasone or fluticasone, as well as albuterol to open the airways in the event of serious symptoms.

Some 25 million people in the United States have asthma. Taking into account medical expenses, missed days of school and work and premature deaths. The illness costs about $3 300 per individual on an annual basis, according to the statement.

The findings are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

(Sapa, September 2012)

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